When you’re able to dust off the year-old passport and get your first stamp at customs, the feeling of accomplishment and a job well done is quite emotional, well for me it was. However, I must admit the trip could’ve gone a lot smoother if I knew then what I know now. So to my future first-time European travelers, here are my top 5 travel tips when heading to Europe.
1. Buy Converter for Charger
When packing for a trip, you think about your cell phone and laptop chargers and not the outlets you will have to plug them into. Well, the outlets in Europe are nothing like the ones here in the United States. So you’re going to need a converter in order to use all your electronic devices. Fortunately, they’re inexpensive. I ordered a converter from ebay for $0.80.
2. Don’t Exchange Currency
Unless you get in a cash-only taxi immediately after leaving the airport, do NOT exchange money in the airport. Just like the food and souvenirs, the buy/sell rate is ridiculously inflated, like ridiculously! You can save $0.10+ on every dollar if you just wait a little while longer. Banks and Currency Exchange places are EVERYWHERE.
3. Save $, Use Airplane Mode
To avoid roaming charges and ridiculous fees, you’ll need to leave your phone on Airplane mode until you’re back in the United States (unless you buy an international data plan from your phone company). You will still be able to connect to WIFI and use iMessage (iPhone users) and free apps like WhatsApp that allow you to text non iPhone users. For the most part, you’ll also notice the FREE WIFI signs in restaurants and on shuttles, yet you’ll also see they require a login once you try to connect. You can ask your waiter or driver for assistance.
4. Prepare for Traveler’s Tax
No one likes surprise fees, especially if you have a set budget for travel, so when checking out of the hotel just know you’re going to have to pay an additional tax. For my trip to Paris, it was 9 euros for 3 nights; for Rome, it was 24 euros for the same 3 nights. I’m not sure how its calculated, but I definitely preferred Paris over Rome!
America has really freaked us over! We’re so arrogant here we don’t really push the importance of learning another language. But please be advised, there’s nothing more embarrassing than standing there with the “I have no idea what you’re saying” face. I will say a lot more people knew English than not, but at least know the basics: Hello, Goodbye, Thank You, etc etc.